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Missak Manouchian's tragic story

Posted by Lisa Marie on Mar 19, 2024 4:15:00 PM

On February 21st, 2024, Missak Manouchian entered the Pantheon, in Paris, a French monument which welcomes the most important figures of the French history.

Missak Manouchian copy

Missak Manouchian

In the name of the foreign resistance against the German repression during World War II, he now lays next to his lover, Mélinée Assadourian, in the most symbolic place of the French patrimony.

Pantheon copy-3

The Panthéon

This is his story…

Born in 1906, in the small village of Adyiaman, Türqyie, from an Armenian family, Missak Manouchian survived the Armenian genocide of 1915, where one million and five thousand people lost their life. Among them, Manouchian’s parents. Indeed, his father was killed by the Ottoman Empire, and his mother died of illness, caused by the famine. 

Raised with his brother in a Christian orphanage in Syria, they then moved to Marseille, France, in 1924, in search for a better life. He will learn the carpentry here, before being employed as a worker by a Citroen factory in Paris, thus moving to the capital. 

Passionated about poetry, he studied philosophy and history as a free candidate, at the prestigious French university of La Sorbonne. He also posed as a model for painters, accumulating small jobs to raise money.

Politically engaged, and good writer, he will create two literary magazines: “Tchank” (The Effort) and “Machagouyt” (Culture)

In 1934, he joined the Communist Party, and will be part of the Armenian group, where he met Mélinée Assadourian, also orphan from the Armenian genocide. 

Mélinée Assadourian copy

Mélinée Assadourian


He will also be redactor-in-chief of the Zangou magazine and be part of the Communist Writers Association.

In love with the French country, and certain that his destiny was here, he asked to become a French citizen in 1933, but it will be refused, because he didn’t have a job at that time. In 1940, he made a new demand, which would never have time to be treated, because of the war.

When the Second World War was declared, on September 1939, Missak Manouchian was interned, because he was a communist foreigner. He was released in 1940, continuing to protest. In June 1941, he was arrested as other communists by the Germans a day before the USSR invasion, as a way to prevent eventual protests later on. He will stay a few days in the Royallieu Camp, near Compiègne, and will be liberated because the enemy didn’t have sufficient proves of its implication.

Manouchian loved this country so much that he wanted to fight against Nazism. In February 1943, he thus joined the “Franc-tireurs et partisans – main-d’oeuvre Immigrée (FTP-MOI)” , a branch of the French communist immigrated resistance, founded in 1942.  First engaged in the political fight, as the Head of the Armenian group of the MOI, under the pseudonym “Georges”, he then joined the FTP-MOI of Paris, where the acts of resistance were more important.

Despite the discretion of the group, the French police, which collaborated with the German regime, after the signature of the armistice between France and Germany on June 22nd, 1940, was following the group since a few months, and was on the point to arrest them.

On September 28th, 1943, a strong action, aiming to kill the German Colonel Julius Ritter, occurred. Thus, without knowing his identity, they killed Fritz Sauckel's representative in France, and supervisor of the forced labour (by French workers requisitioned during the Second World War). 

Missak Manouchian Missak Manouchain arrested

It will allow the police to follow members of the group and to arrest them. Missak Manouchian will be arrested on November 16th, 1943, and executed with Spartaco Fontano, Roger Joseph Rouxel, Amédée Usseglio-Polatera, Robert Witchitz, Georges Fernand Cloarec, Rino Primo Della Negra, César Lucarini, Antoine Antonio Salvadori, Celestino Alfonso, Joseph Boczor Wolf, Emeric Glasz, Marcel Mieczyslaw Rajman, Thomas Elek, Mojsze Fingercweig, Jonas Geduldig “Martiniuk”, Wolf Wajsbrot, Lejb Léon Goldberg, Armenak-Arpen Manoukan-Lavitiant, Salomon Wolf Szapiro « Willy », Szlama Grzywacz, Stanislas Kubacki, at the Mont-Valerien, on February 21st, 1944.

Olga Bancic, the only woman arrested, will be killed in prison, and the chief of the Parisian FTPs, Joseph Epstein, will be executed later on. 

Their arrest will be used by the Nazis as a xenophobic, anticommunist and antisemite propaganda. They will put red posters on the streets, with their faces on it. Under Manouchian’s name, we can read: “Armenian- gang leader: 56 attacks, 150 deaths, 60 injured”. 

Affiche rouge copy-2
The Red Poster, in which we can read: "Liberators?" and then some of the names of the members of the FTP-MOI, their nationality and number of attacks, "Liberation by the Army of the Crime!"

The red poster will become a strong symbol of the French resistance in the memorial history. 

Before dying, the prisoners were allowed to write a last letter to their family. The one written by Manouchian to Mélinée will become a symbol of the French resistance.

He wrote it while being detained at the prison of Fresnes, in the southern suburbs of Paris, used by the Germans to imprison members of the French resistance and English agents of the Special Operations Executive during the World War II.

My dear Mélinée, my beloved orphan,

In a few hours, I will not belong to this world anymore. We will be executed this afternoon after 0300pm. It’s happening like an accident in my life, I can’t believe it but still, I know that I will never see you again. What can I write to you? Everything seems confused, but clear at the same time. I engaged in the Liberation Army as a volunteer soldier, and I die so close to the Victory and the goal. Happiness to those who will survive us and taste the sweetness of tomorrow’s peace and freedom. I know that the French people and the fighters for freedom will know how to honor our memory with dignity. In the moment of death, I proclaim that I feel no hate for the German people, nor anyone else. Everyone will be punished and rewarded as they deserve. The German people and all the others will all leave together in peace and fraternity after the war which will not last long anymore. Happiness to everyone… I have a profound regret not to have been able to make you happy, I would have wanted to have your kid, as you always have desired. I beg you to get married after the war, and to have a kid for my happiness. And to accomplish my last wish, marry you with someone who can make you happy. I give all my goods and stuffs to you, your sister, and your nephews. After the war, you will be able to assert your right to a war pension as my wife, because I die as a regular soldier of the French Army of the Liberation. Helped by friends who would like to honor me, you will edit my poems and my writings which deserve to be written. You will bring my memories, if possible, to my parents in Armenia. Later, I will die with my 23 comrades, with the courage and serenity of a man with a clear conscience, because personally, I didn’t hurt anyone, and if I did, it was without any hate. Today, there is sun. It’s watching the sun and the beautiful nature that I loved so much that I will say goodbye to life, and to you all, my dear wife, and my dear friends. I forgive those who hurt me and who intended to do so, except the one who betrayed us to save himself, and those who sold us. I send you a big hug, as well as your sister, and all the friends who know me from far or near, I hold you all close to my heart. Farewell. Your friend, comrade, husband.

Manouchian Michel

P.S. I have fifteen thousand francs in the suitcase at the Plaisance street. If you want to take it, pay my debts back and give the rest to Armène.


Written by Lisa Marie, Trainee at Normandy American Heroes

Topics: Nazi, Schutzstaffel, SS, WWII, Missak Manouchian

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